A Tyrannosaurus rex lumbers forward, belts out a deafening roar, then stomps overhead, and a viewer watching inside a virtual reality headset turns around to see the beast walking away.
The lifelike run-in with a prehistoric monster comes courtesy of prototype Oculus Rift goggles, giving a glimpse of a future that breaks movies out of the flat screen.
Virtual reality, which immerses viewers in 360-degree worlds long used in video games, is drawing top Hollywood filmmakers and studios such as Twenty-First Century Fox and Walt Disney Co. The technology should arrive on the consumer mass market within two years.
Virtual reality can transport audiences into the middle of the movie landscape, says Brendan Iribe, chief executive of Oculus, which Facebook Inc acquired this year for $2 billion.
“In some decade or two, we are going to be at a point where watching things on 2D surfaces is going to feel pretty outdated,” Iribe told Reuters.
Virtual reality still has technological hurdles to overcome. The biggest problem is motion sickness in some users, which Oculus believes it is close to resolving.
Hollywood directors are trying to figure out how to create 360-degree scenes, and it remains unclear if audiences will want to spend two hours in a virtual world, or just visit for shorter experiences.
BABY STEPS FOR BIGGER SCREENS
Iribe has big ambitions for Oculus Rift devices, the latest version unveiled at a developers conference on Saturday in Hollywood. A prototype is sold now to developers for $350 per headset.
With a consumer version on the horizon, Iribe believes virtual reality devices could be in the hands of millions of consumers within a couple of years.
Designers at Disney’s Lucasfilm are playing around on the desert planet Tatooine, exploring how to bring virtual reality to the “Star Wars” universe as the studio prepares to release Episode VII of the film franchise in 2015.
“Lucasfilm absolutely thinks this is a phenomenal space to be in,” said John Gaeta, Lucasfilm’s Oscar-winning creative director of new media and experiences.
To take smaller steps toward bigger screens, digital projection company Barco is introducing Barco Escape, a 270-degree panoramic screen, in movie theaters. The three-piece screen expands to the left and right of the theater walls.
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Piya Sinha-Roy and Lisa Richwine